My friend Paul, a physicist, has a blog post about teaching a class in his church on evolution. It has generated many comments. And since I spent far too much time and thought commenting myself, I want to pull out what I wrote there. It may help some of you, who knows?
I’m late to the party. Sorry! Here are a few of my thoughts. I’m pro-science. I have no problem accepting that evolution happened (and is happening)—except that I am taking on faith (loosely speaking) that biologists know what they’re talking about. I certainly can’t prove it to myself or understand it on my own. That’s the nature of modern science. Its many disciplines are highly esoteric and inaccessible to laypeople.
Before becoming a pastor, I was an electrical engineer. I learned the teensy bit about physics that I needed in order to have a clue about engineering (not that, once I graduated and got a job, I ever had to worry about it again!)—and I love the subject—but even after taking many college courses I don’t really know much about it.
When it comes to biology and evolution, the problem is even worse: I mostly only know what I learned from a high school textbook, which I hardly remember anyway. I don’t know anything about it. And the fact that I’ve lived 41 years of my life reasonably successfully without knowing anything about it suggests that knowing about it must not be very important. Right?
I’m sure that an evolutionary biologist would want to throttle me for saying that, but really… Even people who are closer to the subject than I am don’t need to know much about evolution. I doubt that my doctor would treat me any worse if he were a Creationist. I doubt that the pharmaceutical industry would be any less profitable if its scientists and researchers doubted evolution. It doesn’t matter very much for the vast majority of people.
Christians who don’t believe in evolution aren’t simply troglodytes because they’re too dumb to understand it. Very few of us understand it, and it doesn’t affect our lives anyway. At least our Creationist and Intelligent Design friends rightly understand that evolution isn’t something to which we owe any sort of ultimate allegiance. They rightly sense that it doesn’t “explain” in any ultimate or adequate way why we’re here. Even as someone who accepts evolution, I certainly go along with them on that. Evolution can only ever be a secondary cause—which the new atheists simply can’t get through their thick skulls. (Yet we believers are the dummies? Give me a break!)
Regardless, if accepting the reality of evolution means accepting philosophical (as opposed to methodological) materialism as one’s point of view—and, let’s face it, that’s the way it’s presented in pop culture and media—then I don’t “believe in” it, either. It’s not either God or evolution, but not both. It’s not “the more evolution does, the less God does.” No wonder that’s threatening to Christians! It ought to be! Fortunately, it’s not true.